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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chopper Crashes in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia -- A helicopter gunship carrying three crew members crash-landed close to the Khankala military base outside Grozny on Monday, but there were no casualties, military officials said.

The accident was caused by a technical fault, not rebel fire, a Defense Ministry duty officer said.

The Mi-24 helicopter disappeared from radar screens on Monday morning, Itar-Tass reported. Fourteen minutes later, the crew commander, Captain Sergei Masyura, reported that the helicopter had fallen close to Khankala, the military's main base in Chechnya, Itar-Tass said.

Lieutenant General Boris Podoprigora, deputy commander of federal forces in Chechnya, said it was a crash-landing.

All three crew members survived and were evacuated by helicopter to Khankala, where they were being monitored by medical personnel, said the duty officer at the Defense Ministry.

The helicopter was completely destroyed by a fire that broke out on board, Itar-Tass said. The duty officer did not confirm that account.

Investigators were sent to the site. According to a preliminary investigation, the accident was caused by a technical failure, and there was no shooting from the ground, the duty officer said.

Rebels using shoulder-launched missiles have shot down three helicopters outside Khankala since August.

Meanwhile, federal troops and Chechen rebels engaged in heavy fighting in Chechnya's mountains Monday, and the Defense Ministry said dozens of rebels were surrounded.

The rebel band was ambushed by a group of Russian special forces overnight outside the village of Kharsenoi, about 50 kilometers southwest of Grozny, the Interfax-Military news agency reported, citing Russian military headquarters.

Podoprigora said that six rebels had been killed and 12 wounded by Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day, a duty officer in the Defense Ministry's press service said that about 30 rebels were surrounded. Neither he nor Podoprigora gave any information on casualties among the federal troops.